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Bowling Green delivers the opening salvo in a battle of 5A powers

With their stranglehold on Bowling Green area supremacy beginning to slip over the past two seasons, and the external doubts surrounding the team this year, the Purples were in need of a spark to help ignite the 2019 campaign. What better opponent to provide the necessary flammable materials than South Warren, the very team vying with the Purples for the privilege of carrying the torch for WKY 5A football?

The Spartans, owners of a state best 21 game winning streak, had been tested greatly the previous two weeks against ranked opponents Central and Glasgow, needing a last second touchdown pass to survive the latter. Their combatant on this night - the first of the season to feature what most consider "real football weather" - was coming in off an unexpected midseason hiatus, lasting a fortnight due to the cancellation of their game with Corbin.

There stood the home team, clad in all black, juxtaposed to the visiting Purples, dressed clean in their white pants, white jerseys, and gold helmets, the contrast inspiring a good vs. evil vibe.

The first half was a surprisingly mundane series of possessions between the two teams that bore no fruit, other than a 27 yard field goal by SW's Eldar Dervisevic. Both defenses stood tall, holding the opposition in check. But you just had a feeling that the Spartans' 3-0 lead would not hold up to the final whistle.

Perhaps the biggest development of the first 24 minutes was the appearance of Vito Tisdale on the offensive side of the ball. His absence in the weekly Bowling Green offensive game plan had become a hot topic here at BGP. He had little to no impact on the outcome offensively, but just the sight of him out there had to bring a measure of joy to the BG faithful.

After leading the Purples in the first half, QB Max Payne was replaced by Conner Cooper. The teams traded possessions in the third quarter until the Purples crossed the goal line first on a 13 yard run by Javeius Bunton with 2:26 to go in the frame. A failed fake punt by South Warren set the Purples up in Spartan territory to begin the go-ahead scoring drive.

Tisdale made his presence felt with a blocked field goal two and a half minutes into the fourth quarter to keep the score at 7-3 Bowling Green. Following a turnover on downs by the Spartans at the BG 34 two possessions later, the Purples turned to the running game to punish the South Warren defense and punctuate a 66 yard drive with another Bunton scoring jaunt, this time from 27 yards out. The men in black never really threatened Bowling Green's endzone, and Evan Spader's second interception of the game put a bow on the night's festivities.

The Purples emerged victorious and are now in position to host a potential second round/district championship rematch. They enter their second hiatus, this one a scheduled bye, meaning this victory will be the only game they play in a span of 27 days. The Spartans are left to regroup, their winning streak now a thing of the past. They too enter a bye week before tackling Christian County and Greenwood to finish sorting out the district.

With another encounter likely to occur in about six weeks, think of Week 7's events as merely a prelude to the main event. The anticipation is sure to build as the Friday nights get cooler and cooler.

Hungry Cougars taste victory over Highlands for the first time since 1993

Coming off a 30 point loss to a very strong Boyle County squad, the general assumption seemed to be that Highlands would rebound against Conner with little trouble. The Bluebirds were sporting a 21-2 lead in the all-time series and hadn't dropped a game to the Cougars in twenty-six years. But a funny thing happened on the way to the win column… Conner was in a very uncooperative state of mind.

All was going according to plan through the first quarter, with the Birds establishing a 14-0 lead. But the Highlands offense fell mute over the final three quarters. Conner ate up all but a couple of minutes of the third frame with two time consuming drives that resulted in field goals, drawing the Cougars to within a score at 14-6. At the 9:29 mark of the final quarter, Conner QB Jared Hicks connected with Drew Cobble for a 33 yard touchdown, making it a two point game and further stoking the anxiety of Highlands fans. Following a successful Highlands field goal that extended their lead to 17-12, an effective kickoff and pursuit left Conner with 81 yards to cover in less than three and a half minutes. That's when Hicks - one of the state's most underrated quarterbacks - channeled his inner John Elway, right down to the #7 on his jersey. He engineered a game winning drive, culminating with a 20 yard touchdown pass to Colton Roy, triggering an eruption of jubilation from the Conner contingent that pierced the mild October air.

Highlands had one last opportunity to strike back, but could only muster one first down at mid-field before giving the ball back to the Cougars, allowing Hicks and his teammates to dust off the single greatest play in anyone's playbook… the victory formation kneel down.

This wasn't supposed to happen. Not on this night, a night to celebrate the late Jared Lorenzen. October 4th was the date designated to retire Lorenzen's iconic #22 and welcome him to the Highlands athletics hall of fame. Someone forgot to tell Conner there was a script to follow.

The story on Highlands all season has been that the defense is good enough to keep them in nearly every game on the schedule, but the offense has been lacking in certain areas - o-line play, a dependable running game, contributions from certain game changing, but strictly defense only players. All of those issues flared up in Week 7. Conner registered five sacks of Highlands quarterbacks and held the Birds to just 40 rushing yards. Brycen Huddleston scored his first points of the season, but they came on a kickoff return. Obviously that's preferable to no points at all, but with Joe Buten out, what's the harm in getting Huddleston 8-10 offensive touches a game in his absence?

For Highlands, this loss is a major step in the wrong direction. For Conner, a giant leap forward in the right one. The Birds have one more game to find themselves before welcoming Covington Catholic. Boone County should provide an opportunity to put this loss in the rearview mirror, but the last two weeks have done irreparable damage to the belief that they can turn the CovCath series back in their favor this year. Conner turns its attention to Cooper in a very tricky game nestled between Highlands and CovCath on the Cougars' schedule. The high times in Hebron could easily be undone if Conner is unable to come down in time for their clash with the Jaguars.

Hurry Up Offense

- Frederick Douglass (7-0) is sitting on an incredible run of six shutouts in seven games following a 54-0 pasting of Grant County. At this point, it seems likely that the Broncos will carry an eight game shutout streak into the regular season finale against Lexington Catholic. Great Crossing and Montgomery County are all that stand between the FD defense and its greatest challenge of the season - the right arm of Beau Allen.

- Covington Catholic (7-0) pounced early and often, nearly achieving a first quarter running clock in a 45-0 demolition of Boone County. Michael Mayer caught his third touchdown of the night nine seconds into the second quarter to trigger the perpetual ticking of the clock. Aside from the sore thumb defensive performance against Beau Allen and LexCath, the Colonels have allowed nine total points in their other six games.

- The duo of Bronson Brown and Philip Garner combined for 300 yards rushing and five touchdowns to help power Scott County (6-1) past Ryle, 57-21. This was a strong bounce back performance following last week's humbling setback at Frederick Douglass. The Cardinals have won 17 games in a row against teams from NKY dating back to 2012.

- South Oldham (6-1) continued the relentless assault of its post-CAL schedule with a 50-6 thrashing of Atherton. Keaton Martin rumbled for 183 yards and three touchdowns. The Dragons have held six of their seven opponents this season to single digit points or less.

- Pulaski County (6-1) mauled South Laurel 48-0 behind a 5-0 advantage in the turnover battle. Jake Sloan added six more catches to his state leading total, accounting for 96 yards and a score.

- Owensboro (6-1) had no trouble dispatching Muhlenberg County behind contributions from numerous players and a suffocating defensive effort. Six different Red Devils found the endzone, led by Treyvon Tinsley with three scores on four touches. They held the Mustangs to only 31 yards of offense, including -8 yards rushing.

Scanning The Periphery

- Fairdale's (6-1) annihilation of Western on Thursday night featured the program's largest margin of victory since 2010. The Bulldogs more than quadrupled the Warriors in total yardage and led 49-6 at halftime, despite being tripled up in time of possession. Trey McCoy tossed three touchdown passes, raising his season total to 21, which is tops in 5A. Fairdale hasn't been 6-1 since 2002, when they finished the regular season 9-1. With the games they have left on the schedule, a one loss regular season is well within reach.

- Greenwood (5-2) ended a two game skid with a 20-14 win over Christian County, fueled by gritty defense and special teams. Reed Slone returned a punt for a score and had a 55 yard touchdown run for the victors. This is the Gators' first ever win over the Colonels. On the flip side, Christian County (0-7) has been the victim of youth and a rugged schedule. They'll need a win against Bowling Green, South Warren, or McCracken County to avoid a winless regular season before a first round playoff trip to face either the Purples or Spartans.

- The three pronged rushing attack of Turner McHolan, Dylan Moore, and Valdon Miles proved more than Madison Southern could handle on Friday night. The East Jessamine backfield trio each topped the century mark in the Jags' 49-35 win. East Jessamine (5-2) is averaging 383 yards per game on the ground, which leads 5A and ranks second in the state overall.

GOTW for Week 8

Pulaski County at North Laurel - Seven weeks into the season, we have a firm handle on who the Maroons are. They're squarely entrenched in the BGP top 10 and have faced a challenging schedule. The same cannot be said of North Laurel. An experienced Jaguars squad stumbled out of the gate, falling to Dunbar in Week 1 and, overall, dropped two of their first three. They've rebounded to win four straight, but it's hardly been a dominant stretch. Those four wins have come with an aggregate score of 93-49 against teams sporting a combined record of 8-17. Here lies an opportunity to put their stamp on the 2019 season. A win over Pulaski would deliver an unexpected jolt to 5A District 8 as we approach the home stretch of the regular season. The Jaguars feature a balanced running game with four ball carriers rushing for at least 350 yards on the year, and QB Dalton Sizemore is coming off a career best passing performance against Southwestern - 252 yards and 3 TDs. Pulaski counters with the aerial combo of QB Drew Polston and Jake Sloan, 5A's leaders in passing and receiving, respectively.